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Commissioners take team approach

The Kitsap County commissioners didn’t have a lot of slack time in 2004. They battled with a series of land-use issues, holding long planning meetings that included harsh community criticism.

The county made a serious pitch for a local NASCAR track, which ended in disappointment.

The commissioners also made a series of high-profile appointments, readjusting county government to accommodate changing needs, and they cobbled together a complicated new budget.

And amidst all of this, two-thirds of the commissioners had to run for re-election.

“It was a blur,” South Kitsap Commis-sioner Jan Angel said of 2004. “It was an extremely busy year. County-wide planning policies are a very interesting process. Many citizens weren’t totally happy with the results. I wasn’t totally happy. But we came up with the best that we could do at the time.”

Angel said new policies “still need fine-tuning, but are far better than what we started with.”

Angel’s fellow commissioners — Chris Endresen of North Kitsap and Patty Lent of Central Kitsap —don’t agree on everything. But most decisions are unanimous and the apparent harmony contributes to the perception of smooth government.

This harmony was underscored by Superior Court Judge Jay Roof, when he swore in Angel and Endresen for their coming terms earlier this week.

Other counties, he noted, are plagued by citizen lawsuits and spats between the county commissioners and other governing bodies.

“Those kind of things don’t happen in Kitsap County,” Roof said. “We have a very good board of commissioners.”

“We don’t always agree, but we agree we’re here to do the people’s business,” Endresen said. “We haven’t had many split decisions. We’ve been able to work these things through.

“You’re not going to win every vote,” she added. “Politics is the art of compromise. You can’t be an effective local government official if you don’t have the ability to see the other side. You’ll never get everything you want.”

Endresen, the only Democrat among the commissioners, is both its youngest and longest-serving member. At 48, she is beginning her third term after a fractious, at-times nasty re-election campaign.

She is also ascending to the chair for 2005, a position she last held in 2001.

Endresen succeeds Lent — a first-termer looking ahead to her third year as a commissioner — as chair.

“I’m looking forward to giving more of my opinions during meetings,” she said. “I couldn’t do that as chair.”

Elected with the support of several right-leaning groups, Lent’s views became more moderate as she earned a reputation as a good listener.

She has also earned animosity from some of her early supporters. “Patty isn’t enough of a Republican,” said one observer of Lent’s political evolution.

“We want to do what’s right,” Angel said. “All three of us are strong women with strong opinions, but we’re able to negotiate solutions. I want to make sure we have citizen participation that actually means something. We need to listen to what people say and have time to digest it. Having a public hearing followed by an immediate vote can be very difficult.”

Moving to the new county building during the coming year will disrupt the business of government, with some departments waiting to move in order to accommodate the busiest season.

“A facility has never affected my productivity,” Angel said. “When I worked for a bank in Alaska, I operated out of the back of a trailer. But our new building gives us an opportunity for more cohesive government. We’re too spread out now, and we’ll be able to get many sections of DCD into the same building. When people can be organized as to location, it makes a more efficient operation.”

Diversity of viewpoints is one of Kitsap’s strong points, even if it causes some tension between different regions.

“Each community has different needs and desires,” Endresen said. “One of our successes is the way we work together with other agencies, city governments and elected officials throughout the county. We don’t always agree, but we respect and understand each other.”

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